George’s Marvellous Medicine, by Roald Dahl

February 2, 2012 at 01:49 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Comedy, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , )


One of Roald Dahl’s shortest children’s books, this can hardly be described as a complex story. Like many of his classics, the accusation could be very fairly made that he planned poorly, and relied on his peerless descriptive prowess to see him through; that he made things up as he went along, and truncated storylines when he ran out of ideas.

This book is split into three parts: the description of a dreadful life that Dahl did so well as to become a staple in subsequent children’s literature, a fabulous exploration of the medicine’s manifold and imaginitive ingredients, and then finally (and most confusingly) a series of descriptions about the medicine’s effects.

The first two parts are performed (if not masterfully) then to satisfaction. George’s life is not so magnificently written as Charlie Bucket’s or James Trotter’s, but it is classic Dahl. The creation of the potion is not so pregnant with excitement and magic as Danny and his father scraping together the ingredients for downing a flock of pheasants, but there is the same lyrical madness as some of Dahl’s poetry, and it makes for fun reading. Even the ending, the final part of the book, is not all bad. It is simply not Dahl’s best work. He seems unable or unwilling to finish a thought, and consequences (when they do happen) happen all in a rush and a tumble, and are a little anticlimactic in nature.

“The old hag opened her small wrinkled mouth, showing disgusting pale brown teeth.”

-George’s Marvellous Medicine

Attention must also be given to Roald Dahl’s description of George’s grandmother. Never one to censor his bile, it would be foolish to expect this writer who made his name writing violent and graphic stories to shirk his duty here. But the descriptions of the old hag are a little sharper and a little more bitter than in some of the other books. There is a little less fantasy and a slightly more disturbing result, and combined with the much weaker story, these problems aggregate to leave us with a wry and entertaining but ultimately unpalatable story.

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